When I went: 16 May 2018
Location: Royal Festival Hall, London
Performers: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Kryzysztof Urbanski (conductor), Kirill Gerstein (piano)
Creative team: Beethoven, Stravinsky (composers)
Approximate price: £50
Special points: Solo piano encore
Best bit: Beethoven 2nd movement
If I could change one thing: More fireworks in the piano concerto
This concert opened with Stravinsky’s Scherzo à la russe, a short and sweet piece that is a good introduction to Stravinsky’s orchestral music.
Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major (“Emperor”) is a lot more famous and is always a sparkling addition to any concert. It’s about 40 minutes long and has quite a traditional ‘classical’ structure in that it has a lively first movement, a slower and more reflective second movement, and an upbeat and virtuosic finale.
Stravinsky’s The Firebird is an interesting ballet / orchestral piece that was revised a few times in the 20th century, and tells the complete fairy story of a firebird (or phoenix), prince and princesses. It has some really strong melodies that return throughout the work.
The Stravinsky Scherzo made for an interesting start to the Beethoven sandwich of this programme – it is so short that it almost felt like another piece could have been added before the Beethoven, but it was performed well and enthusiastically.
The Beethoven is one of my favourite piano pieces and I enjoyed Kirill Gerstein’s performance, although it was maybe a little more restrained in tone than I would have ideally liked; obviously this is subjective, but I prefer renditions of this piece that have a few more fireworks. The more contained interpretation did work especially well in the slow movement, but there were a couple of issues with timing where Gerstein was slightly ahead of the orchestra, and also I felt that perhaps the piano should have been raised onto a podium or miked up more as there were moments when it was drowned out by the orchestra. Gerstein’s Chopin waltz encore was a fun ending to the first half of the concert.
The orchestra did a great job with The Firebird, especially in the heavier moments such as the finale.